Summer is my favourite season and it can be fun to write about, but how can you do it well? Here are some writing tips and inspiration for including summer in your stories.
In this post, you can find tips for writing a story that ONLY takes places in the summer as well as including the season as a part of your story.
What is “summer” anyway?
This is probably a silly question, but people around the world have different conceptions about what counts as summer and when summer begins. This can be relevant to you if your story takes places in a country that you’re not from and you don’t want someone to enjoy their summer vacation in a wrong time, for example.
Many people’s opinion depends on when their school used to end and start. Around where I’m from, schools start in mid-August, so even though it might still be quite warm around that time, I strongly feel that summer ends and autumn begins some time in August.
In Britain, however, they tend to have their summer holidays in August and don’t consider autumn to begin until schools start in September. If you were writing a story that takes place in Australia, South Africa or any other country on the southern hemisphere, it would obviously be a different thing altogether.
It’s probably not crucial to know how long exactly does summer last wherever your story takes place, but just something to keep in mind. If you’re writing a story where you’re inventing a whole new world, you’ll have to decide these things for yourself.
What kind of a summer story should you write?
Stories set in summertime tend to be the fluffier kind. There a A LOT of romance novels that take place in the season and an abundance of beach reads that rarely get read again. There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re writing a more serious story or something that aspires to be something more than a disposable paperback, remember to brand your story accordingly.
Due to the nature of summer (wearing nothing but a bikini top and booty shorts, anyone?) there are a lot of steamy romance novels written that take place in summer or in popular holiday locations that feel like summer all year long. It’s a lot more difficult to be a tramp when you’re wearing four layers of clothing, so if writing something spicy is in your plans, summer can be a good season for that.
Other common themes in summer stories are going back to your hometown and feeling wistful about the past. There’s a certain stillness in summertime that seems to summon these feelings, though schools ending in the beginning of the summer obviously has its effects on it as well.
Because summer is seen as a more lighthearted season, you might want things to be easier on your character as summer rolls around. You can also play against people’s expectations and make summer the worst season of your characters’ lives. The summer ending can also bring specific feelings to your characters.
How should summer appear in your story setting
There are many different ways you can show summertime in your story and how it can give you inspiration for what can happen to your characters.
Summer, of course, is warm, or it should be, and people certainly hope that it is. The season has a certain feeling of freedom for many of us, though if you have to work all the way through it, there might be a tinge of resentment involved as well. But even working people tend to take any chance they get to enjoy the weather, if there’s anything to enjoy, and people everywhere are rather keen on eating and drinking outside when possible.
There are also different celebrations happening during the summer, like Midsummer or certain countries’ independence days that you could include in your story. And what about nighttime? Summer nights can be quite different around the world, and mentioning this can bring some delightful details to your story.
If you’re writing fantasy, it can still be reasonable to expect your imaginary world to have some kind of a summer celebration. You can draw inspiration from different summer traditions and festivals around the world, and if your story takes place on earth, don’t forget Summer Solstice.
Consider the location where your story takes place but also the socioeconomic class of the people you’re writing about. Working people will spend summer differently than people who can afford to take long vacations or to work remotely. Preferred holiday locations are also different for different groups of people, which might be fascinating to research if you’re writing historical fiction.
Nature in summer
If nature is an important part of your story and the characters’ lives, you should remember not everything grows at the same time. May flowers are long gone when August begins, and if you’re writing about an agricultural society – imaginary or not – harvesting different crops can be a detail you might want to include.
It’s naturally (heh) up to you what you want to include and research, and as a writer I know it isn’t unusual to spend hours to research whether you should mention beetroots in July or not. You as the writer are the best judge of whether your story needs that kind of accuracy and realism or not.
If you don’t know what the nature is like in your story setting, just find some pictures and use those as inspiration. Don’t forget to use all the senses when describing the natural world.
Should you write a hot summer or not?
Guess what? I’m going to talk about snow. That’s right.
How hot it is in the summer naturally depends on the location, and as obvious as that may sound, I’ve noticed that people still have a hard time imagining the weather being much different around the world.
Although it is unusual, it is not completely unheard of that it might still snow in summer where I live. We had a very cold spring and a disappointing summer in 2016, including snow in June, so don’t be afraid to throw a little curveball at your characters if you think they’re enjoying their summer life a little too much.
If your story takes place somewhere that is typically very warm, you might find that the summer can get straight up scorching. A heat wave in an already hot place can dry rivers, ruin crops and kill people, and temperatures can get unbearable.
If they’re used to weather like that, your characters will probably have some tricks up their sleeve for making it through, unlike in places where temperatures don’t rise that high. Your protagonist might not be able to turn up the AC if they live in a house that is designed to keep the heat in.
Hot weathers also often lead to bigger storms, so don’t be afraid to use turbulent weather to stir things up in your story, to make things more dramatic and to make a point whenever appropriate.
What do heat and rain really feel like
So, maybe it’s hot in your story. Maybe someone got soaked while meandering on the hills. How do you describe this without having to resort to “she was feeling hot” or “all her clothes got wet”? (Not that those don’t have their place, but let’s assume here that you need your readers to feel what’s happening!)
Heat can feel oppressing, and it can be humid or it can be dry. It can make you feel dizzy and make you sweat in odd places, and you might not be hungry but instead you might have other… urges. Or not! You might feel totally lethargic and put-off by having to wear shorts because everything else is too uncomfortable.
Those are all things you can include that can make your reader go “yes, I totally remember how that feels” even if they were reading your story in an igloo. What about the smell of hot asphalt? The smell of sunscreen and hot skin? The feel of someone else’s hot and sticky skin next to you?
Rain, often, has its own smell as well, though it might be difficul to describe. Wet clothes and wet dogs are familiar smells during summer rains, like wet asphalt, and less fortunate people might have a funny smell in their house as well during rainfall. Sometimes rain falls in big drops that might even feel painful on your skin, and sometimes it’s just a misting that barely feels any cooler than the surrounding air.
There are so many types of rain that if you really want your readers to feel what it’s like to get soaked in your story world, you have a lot of options for describing the experience.
Other sensory details for summer
Anything that you write appears more lifelike and realistic to your readers when you include sensory details, i.e. how do things look like, sound like, feel like, taste and smell. Here are a few details you can include:
- the taste of ice cream
- what cold drinks feel and taste like on a hot day
- hot asphalt under your feet
- the smell of warm skin or sunscreen
- the sound of rain on the tree leaves
- walking in grass in bare feet
- sweaty patches under your arms
- birds singing early in the morning
How to get in the mood for writing about summer
What’s the best way to enjoy summer? Only you know the best, but how about putting on a pair of shorts and enjoying a nice drink from a big glass? It might not sound very inviting if you’re trying to write a summer story in the middle of winter, but at least you could imagine what it feels like being able to do that.
Do you remember what it was like when school ended and you were off for the summer holidays? Try to relive that feeling and then infuse your story with it. If you enjoy nature photography, take a look at pictures you’ve taken and think of how it felt and smelled like to be surrounded by so much green. (Assuming it was green, of course. I’ve never spent much time in a desert.) If you don’t have pictures of your own, doing a Pinterest search works here just as well.
If you’re looking for something to listen to while writing your story, you can do a search for summer hits on Youtube or Spotify, and if there is a particularly nice summer that you can remember, you can search for that year’s most popular summer songs.
What do people do in summer
If it’s an option, most people prefer to have their holidays in summer. Even if they can’t travel, they might still enjoy trying new cafes, going to a beergarden, spending time at the part or going to the beach. Find out what are popular things to do where your story takes place.
Summer weddings are very popular in many places, so if you want a big event to take place in your story, a wedding is always a good option. If you’re writing romance, a wedding can be a great way to include some drama and conflict to your story as well as bring some mushy feelings.
Because so many people are on vacation, summer can bring a sense of isolation to some people. Schools are out, people are of town, emails aren’t getting answered… Sometimes summer can be about NOT doing things.
How summer can bring conflict to your story
Any season has the potential to bring in extra conflict to your story so don’t be afraid to make use of these opportunities. You can read my post about conflict ideas to really understand why conflict is important and to get some extra inspiration.
- Heatwaves leading to uncomfortably hot houses and people or pets dying in cars.
- Drought leading to people suffering, moving away or even dying.
- Not having anything to do.
- Feeling self-conscious about weather-appropriate clothing.
- Torrential rains blocking traffic.
- Thunderstorms causing blackouts or fires.
Plot ideas for summer stories
Here are some story ideas or writing prompts for your summery stories/scenes.
- Harriet wasn’t accepted to the school of her dreams and she needs to get a job at the coffee shop in her boring and humid hometown.
- When Leila gets lost hiking in Lapland, she ends up learning what she’s really capable of in the land where the sun doesn’t set.
- The kids will never forget the summer they went swimming and found the dead body of their English teacher on the beach.
- Gary just wants to be alone and tend to his flowers but unfortunately his immaculate rose garden attracts tourists all summer long.
- Josie is determined not to share a flat with her friends when university classes continue in autumn so she ends up accepting a job that turns out to be far more dangerous than she expected.
Books that take place in summer
There are countless books that take place in summer, but here are a few recommendations which I will eventually add to.
- The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants
- The Summer I Turned Pretty
- The Summer Book
- Summer at Little Beach Street Bakery
What are your favourite summer books?
Which books do you think described summertime the best? Which are your favourite beach reads that practically smell like sunscreen and the seaside? Share them in the comments and I’ll include them in the list.